“I’m stuck, Christine. I can’t get past this plot point. The characters won’t do what I want them to do.”
Putting down her coffee mug, Christine gave Jason a knowing look. “You do this to yourself, you know. We go through this every time you’re writing a new novel.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you start writing on whim or an idea and then, when you figure you should actually try to figure out where the novel is going, you try to plot.”
“So? Every writer plots out their books.”
“Some plot, yes, but too much can bog a story down when you’re writing the first draft. The important thing is to get it down on paper.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do.” Jason tried to keep the impatience out of his voice, but wasn’t entirely successful.
Christine patted Jason’s hand to calm him. “I’m not trying to needle you. It’s the truth. You reach a point where you can’t go any further mostly because you stop yourself. When you write from the heart and don’t think about the story before you write it, that’s when you shine. Hell, you wrote your first novel over a long weekend. You wrote your second novel in a week. You’re not one of those writers that can work within lines and boxes. You’re an automatic writer.”
“You mean like a human Ouija board? Those people that can tell fortunes and things through writing?”
Laughing, she patted his hand again. “No, not like that. Just that when inspiration comes to you, you have to write immediately, you have to get it down. That’s when you do your best work. It’s work that touches people. Writers are kind of like mediums when they write the good stuff.” Christine took a sip of her coffee. “It’s when you over think things too much that you get your writers block.”
“Look who knows so much about my writing habits.”
“Jason, I’m right. Just take your journal out and walk around, sit in a park, see what you see and write what comes to you. Try and prove me wrong.”
Jason had to admit that there was some truth to what Christine had said. His best work seemed to come from somewhere else, as if someone else was guiding the pen on the paper or his fingers over the keyboard. Later, when Jason would look back over what he’d written, he didn’t remember writing any of it.
It was the work he agonized over that he remembered. The stuff that became blockbuster best sellers was the stuff he wish he had remembered writing. Those books were good, even he had to admit that and Jason suffered from what he liked to call the Tragic Writers Clause: everything he wrote was crap.
He knew he was being hard on himself, but all creative types were their own worst critics. It was part of what drove them. However, those books, the ones he wrote as if in a hazy fog, those books were awesome.
Maybe Christine was right. He just had to go out there, sit and wait for some inspiration to come to him. Maybe it would help him work through the novel he was writing now and was considering giving up.
Stopping at his apartment long enough to grab a journal and a pen, he walked down the street to the park that was close by. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing through the grass. If he didn’t find inspiration here, there was a problem.
He was about to put his pen to paper when a woman walked by and sat at the bench next to his. She smiled at Jason and he returned it and then turned to his paper. His hand moved as if of its own accord, sliding over the page with a soft whisper. He wrote: She was so tired lately. Stacey wondered if it was possible to feel so alone when in a relationship. She wondered if she should leave her husband. He was her whole world. She knew he loved her.
Jason heard the woman get up and begin to walk away. There was the clap of something hitting the pavement and Jason looked up to see she had dropped her purse, its contents spilling out all over.
Getting up to help, Jason gathered a change purse, a few tubes of lipstick and an ID pass. He looked at it briefly. Her name was Stacey Jones. Jason gathered the items up and handed them to her. Their hands touched briefly and there was a spark that passed between them. Jason didn’t know if it was this spark or what he had written that made him speak: “It’ll get better, Stacey.”
She gave him a surprised look. “How do you know my name?”
Rather than tell her he had written about her, had been compelled to, he said: “It was on your work pass.”
“Oh,” She said, waving a hand. “Of course. What do you mean by it’ll get better.”
Instead of answering her, he tore the page out of his journal and handed her. “Here. Read this when you get home. Just trust me when I say it will get better. I have a good feeling about it.”
Stacey wasn’t put off by him. Instead she smiled and the smile changed the way she looked instantly. She became instantly younger. “Thank you.” She said. She reached out her hand and touched his arm, just a passing moment between two strangers but they were both lighter in spirit because of it.
Jason sat back down on the bench and took out his journal and pen again when he heard footsteps. Looking up, he saw it was Stacey. She was holding the folded piece of paper and was almost holding it out to him.
“How did you know?” She asked him. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
Jason thought of how to answer her. In the end, he said the first thing that came to mind: “I’m an automatic writer.”
He stood and embraced her briefly before walking away. He had some writing to do but first, he was going to take Christine out for a glass of wine. Jason knew what he had to do now. He just had to sit down and let the story come as it wanted to, that was all that mattered.
His fingers began to itch with the possibility of a story yet to be told…
* Dedicated to Christine, who is lovely and told me what I needed to hear.